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Am J Hum Genet. 2001 Aug;69(2):269-77. Epub 2001 Jul 6.

Mutations in the sepiapterin reductase gene cause a novel tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent monoamine-neurotransmitter deficiency without hyperphenylalaninemia.

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  • 1Division of Clinical Chemistry and Biochemistry, University Children's Hospital, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland.


Classic tetrahydrobiopterin (BH(4)) deficiencies are characterized by hyperphenylalaninemia and deficiency of monoamine neurotransmitters. In this article, we report two patients with progressive psychomotor retardation, dystonia, severe dopamine and serotonin deficiencies (low levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic and homovanillic acids), and abnormal pterin pattern (high levels of biopterin and dihydrobiopterin) in cerebrospinal fluid. Furthermore, they presented with normal urinary pterins and without hyperphenylalaninemia. Investigation of skin fibroblasts revealed inactive sepiapterin reductase (SR), the enzyme catalyzing the final two-step reaction in the biosynthesis of BH(4). Mutations in the SPR gene were detected in both patients and their family members. One patient was homozygous for a TC-->CT dinucleotide exchange, predicting a truncated SR (Q119X). The other patient was a compound heterozygote for a genomic 5-bp deletion (1397-1401delAGAAC) resulting in abolished SPR-gene expression and an A-->G transition leading to an R150G amino acid substitution and to inactive SR as confirmed by recombinant expression. The absence of hyperphenylalaninemia and the presence of normal urinary pterin metabolites and of normal SR-like activity in red blood cells may be explained by alternative pathways for the final two-step reaction of BH(4) biosynthesis in peripheral and neuronal tissues. We propose that, for the biosynthesis of BH(4) in peripheral tissues, SR activity may be substituted by aldose reductase (AR), carbonyl reductase (CR), and dihydrofolate reductase, whereas, in the brain, only AR and CR are fully present. Thus, autosomal recessive SR deficiency leads to BH(4) and to neurotransmitter deficiencies without hyperphenylalaninemia and may not be detected by neonatal screening for phenylketonuria.

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